I belong to God

29th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Today’s gospel relates one among the occasions when the Pharisees tried to trick Jesus. No-one likes to pay taxes. However, it is acceptable when the taxes you pay are used for the good of your country. When they are used for other purposes, this would make the payment of taxes more unacceptable. This was the situation the Jews were being faced with. They paid taxes to the Romans, but the money was not used for the benefit of the Jews. The Romans’ first loyalty was to the Emperor; for the Jews, God was above the Emperor and his laws. For this reason, the Jews asked Jesus about the payment of taxes. It was a trick question. If Jesus replied that he agreed with the taxes paid to the Romans, he would displease the Jews, if he replied in the negative, he would displease the Romans and he would be telling the Jews to disobey the law. Yet Jesus was not caught in their trap.  His reply to “repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God” was not what they expected.

Jesus is reminding us of our two main responsibilities.  When Jesus asks to see the coin, he shows the image on it, and through it he reminds us of our responsibility to do our duties as citizens of a country. On the other hand, we are all created in the image of God. So, I belong to God. My first loyalty goes to God. We are duty bound to obey state laws, unless these go against God’s law. When I look at others, I see the image of God in them too. We all belong to God. God is not a tyrant, like some state rulers. God is love. He is our father. Jesus showed us how we can serve God. He showed us how to give him what is his: through prayer and love of neighbour. God sent his son to guide us and show us how to obey his law. When our decisions and our way of life do not reflect Christian values, when the Commandments and the Beatitudes are not influencing our decisions, we are breaking God’s law.

In this episode, Jesus teaches us that we have several responsibilities, but the most important is our responsibility towards God’s will. No-one and nothing should come before him. Two laws guide us. The law of man and that of God. God’s law is always above the law of man.

A reading from the Gospel of Matthew (Mt 22, 15-21) 

The Pharisees went off and plotted how they might entrap Jesus in speech. They sent their disciples to him, with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are a truthful man and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. And you are not concerned with anyone’s opinion, for you do not regard a person’s status. Tell us, then, what is your opinion: Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?”

Knowing their malice, Jesus said, “Why are you testing me, you hypocrites? Show me the coin that pays the census tax.” Then they handed him the Roman coin. He said to them, “Whose image is this and whose inscription?” They replied, “Caesar’s.” At that he said to them, “Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.”

The Gospel of the Lord
Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ

  1. Read the Gospel story so that you are familiar with it.
  2. Reflect on what the Gospel story is saying to you. Which points would you highlight and why?
  3. What does the phrase: “Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God” mean to you?
  4. What did God give you? How can you use the talents God gave you to serve others, especially your family?
  5. There are times when we are tempted to compartmentalise our lives. There may be sections where we do not allow God to enter, it could be our work or leisure time. Are there any such areas in your life, where God is not allowed to have his say?
  6. Together with your family find the right time to read this gospel. The environment helps, so before you start, prepare:
    i. The Bible reading from St Matthew (22, 15-21)
    ii. A lit candle;
    iii. Cover the table with green cloth;
    iv. A computer/laptop with the reading and clips.
  7. Go through the steps with your children (2 age groups are being suggested).
  8. Feel free to adapt to your situation.
  9. Be creative 😊
  10. Go to the Prayer Corner section to continue praying as a family.

The Pharisees were religious leaders. They studied God’s Law. Jesus did not agree with them, because although they knew God’s Law very well, they did not really care for others. They did not love everyone, as God does. In today’s Gospel, the Pharisees try to provoke Jesus by making him take sides. Yet, Jesus does not allow the Pharisees to trick him.

  • God created everything and we are to thank him
  • We are to obey our parents and teachers
  • We are to pray for those children who do not know that Jesus loves them a lot

We need:

  • A big blank paper
  • Chocolate or some other goodie, for everyone

In Jesus’ time, the country was ruled by the Romans and not the Jews. At home, decisions are generally taken by your parents, for example. They decide where you go to school, where to go for outings, what will you eat, how to furnish the house, what to buy. Now imagine that instead of your parents, these decisions are made by your auntie who does not even live with you. She calls you everyday to wake you up early in the morning, even when you are on holiday, she decides what you will have for lunch and dinner, she decides how to furnish the house, she even decides where you will go when you go out! What do you think? Is it right, that your aunt decides for you, when she is not even part of your family?

This was how the Jews lived. They were not the ones to rule their country. The Romans did and the Jews were not happy. Did you ever hear your parents grumble about paying taxes? No one likes to pay taxes, but the country needs this money. With this money the government builds schools, hospitals, gardens, playgrounds, and roads and the money is used for many other things. The Jews paid their taxes to the Romans, but the Romans did not use the money to help the Jews. For such a reason, the Jews asked Jesus if he agreed t with all of this. Jesus replied: “repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.”

Jesus reminds us that we are to obey our leaders. When we are at home, we obey our parents, at school we obey our teachers, when we are at our grandparents, we obey them. Even our parents obey their leaders. Jesus is telling us that above all, we are to obey God. God created everything, so everything, even us, belong to God.

Can you name some things that God created?
If God created everything, everything belongs to him.
What should we tell God, for all this beautiful creation? (thank you)

God created everything as it should be, but there are countries which are poor. In these countries there are people who do not share what they have. Let us imagine that you are not feeling well. Mummy has bought some bananas. You are at home, since you are not feeling well, and you eat all the few bananas available. When your brothers and/sisters come back from school, they have no bananas to eat! In some countries, there are some people who take everything for themselves and they do not leave enough for others. Therefore, we have poor countries.

There are also countries, where children do not know Jesus, like you do. They do not know that Jesus loves them a lot, that he wants to help them, that he wants to be with them. They do not know that Jesus died for them, or that he rose from the dead. They do not know that one day they will meet him in heaven! Let us play a game.

Send one of the children in another room. Give out the chocolate or goodie. When you give the chocolate say “NN (person’s name) Jesus loves you very much.” When you have the last one say: “BB (the missing person’s name) Jesus loves you very much.” Talk about how good the chocolate is and how much you are enjoying it. 
We ask: “What about BB’s chocolate?”
We ask another child to go and give him or her the chocolate, and to come back together.

When there are children in another country who know nothing about Jesus, something similar happens. Those countries who know about Jesus, send people to these countries to teach the children and adults about Jesus. We call these people missionaries. It is like when we took the chocolate to BB. BB could not eat the chocolate with us, because she was not here, she could not taste it and see how good it was. Yet, when we took it to her, she could eat it and taste how good it was.

Today we have learnt that God created the whole world, and that we are to thank him. We also learnt that there are poor people in the world who do not have enough food, or a house and toys. We need to pray for the poor, so that may find people who can help them live with dignity. We learnt that not everyone knows that Jesus loves them, so missionaries go to teach them this.

Fix the big blank sheet of paper, where everyone can see it. During this week, everyone writes or draws something he/she is thankful for.

Sign of the cross.

Lord God, thank you for all creation. Thank you …. (everyone mentions something he/she is thankful for, then writes it down/draws it on the blank paper).

Listen to and sing My God is number one.

Jesus, today we also want to pray for all those children who do not know that you love them. We pray that missionaries go to teach them about you. Amen. 

Today we are going to see how some people want to trick Jesus. Yet, Jesus notices this at once. Let us listen to the Gospel and see what Jesus wants to tell us today.

We will learn that:

  • All we have belongs to God, God created everything
  • God is to come first in all our decisions

We need:

  • Masking tape
  • A pencil / felt pen
  • Eight shoe boxes (or blocks) (if you have enough prepare 8 boxes or blocks for each person

The Pharisees were religious leaders. They studied well God’s Law. Jesus did not agree with them, because although they knew God’s law very well, they did not really care for the people. They did not love everyone, like God loves everyone. The Pharisees and the Herodians were not friends. The Herodians were friends of Herod. Although Herod was a Jew, he obeyed the Romans. The Romans did not believe in one God, they believed in many gods. This was one among the reasons why the Pharisees did not like the Romans. Furthermore, the Romans also took their taxes and did not use them to help the Jews. All the governments collect taxes, but the money is used to make the country better. Amongst other things, the money is used to build hospitals, schools, homes, roads, gardens, to buy medicine, and money is given to those in need. Would you like to imagine yourselves in charge of the tax money? You have a lot of money collected through taxes. You are to use this money for the good of others. How will you spend it?

Let us go back to the Gospel story. The Pharisees and the Herodians were not friends, but they agreed on one thing. They both wanted Jesus caught and killed.

In today’s Gospel, they are trying to trick Jesus, through a question about taxes. But Jesus realises this and answers in a way which leaves them speechless. Jesus tells them: “repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.” What do you think Jesus meant by this?

God created the world and all that there is in it. Therefore, everything belongs to him. We are God’s children; we belong to him too. When Jesus showed the image on the coin, he told the people that they were to obey Caesar. He tells us the same thing; we are to obey those who are in authority. But Jesus does not stop there. He tells us that we are to love God. God is above everything and everyone else. So, we are to obey him first. How can we obey God?

Jesus became man like us. He showed us what we are to do, to obey and love God. Jesus used to pray, he taught others about God, he helped everyone, he loved everyone. What can we do to be like Jesus? (give time for everyone present to speak)

There are times when we get mixed up and choose wrongly. It is especially difficult to choose when both things are good. For example, it is Sunday. You still have a lot of homework to finish, you must do a project. Since you have to finish everything, you do not have time to go to Mass. It is not right to go to school without your homework. It is not right to miss Mass. What will your choice be?

In such a case, it would be best to see how you spent your time in the days before. Did you waste time? Is this the reason why your homework is not yet ready? Are you still wasting some of your precious time?

We are often in such a situation, because we want to obey Jesus and we also want to do well at school, we want to do sports, to play a musical instrument or to practice dancing or art lessons, we want to spend time with our family and friends, we want to have enough time to play and watch favourite tv programmes. Wow, that is a lot of things to do! Jesus wants us to do all these things! These are all good things. Yet Jesus wants us to be wise and use our time correctly. Jesus wants, that like him, we find time to pray every day, to find time to help at home and to help others, to love others always.

Today’s activity is about our priorities and choices. Stick a piece of masking tape on each of the boxes (or blocks). On the masking tape write one of these words: God (prayer and mass), school, sports, friends, food, money, family, games (that is, each box will have a different word on it). If we have enough boxes for each person present, all may now put the boxes on top of each other. The one at the top is the one which is most important for us. Afterwards, discuss and let everyone give the reasons for their choice of order. If there aren’t enough boxes, take a photo after each person makes his choice. When everyone is ready, discuss about the way the boxes were ordered. What will we learn from all this? Should we change the order of how we are doing things? Is there something which we are ignoring, and which should be more important in our lives?

Jesus wants to teach us that studying is good, it is ok to want to do sports or play a musical instrument or learn how to dance. It is right that when we grow up, we go to work to earn money, we need to eat, we need to have friends. But when these things, or other things, become so important for us, that we do not have time for God, we would be making a wrong choice.

Sign of the cross.

Jesus please help us to love God and to give him first place in our lives. Help us to do what you want, to be friends with everyone, to help all those who need our help.

Listen and sing, I wanna do right.

Jesus, today it is Mission Sunday. We want to pray for all the missionaries. They do big sacrifices to go to other countries to teach children and adults about you. We also pray for these people so that they know that you love them very much. Amen.

As in previous weeks, go to the Prayer Corner section to understand the Gospel better.

How to use this space

God speaks to us in many ways, including through the Sunday Scripture readings. Here you will find useful background and activities to better understand the upcoming Sunday's Scripture readings, helping you to connect the Scripture to daily life in a meaningful way.